The Joy of Customising Models and Casts, welcome back from Mexico, again!

Every time I come back from Mexico I bring a lot of samples from Hector Munive. Dalia Castillo and other Mexican sculptors and casters… that means hours and hours of further customising of quality casts that need to be “brought to life” with extreme care and detail. I enjoy every minute of it.

This time I got new samples of casts of Sinosauropteryx, Comnpsognathus and more. No computers here! Matching the colours with the original fossils is quite a challenge and I dedicate many hours to the completion of the pieces… As I did for the Caudipteryx before I expanded and refined techniques in order to making believable all the new pieces.

This cast of Sinosauropteryx is double the size of the most famous one where the feathers are so evident… the evidence for feathers for this one is at best sparse… but they are there no doubt. The claws are clear in this one too. The bones colour in the original fossil is lighter and the sediment looks different, which is tricky because everything changes from light to light. I thank Peter Norton from Gondwana Studios the challenge to make this better… we have one customised by him at the Dinosaur rEvolution exhibition. Don’t miss it!

Compsognathus on the other hand is a classic and needs to be restored to match similar colour to Archaeopteryx, since they both were found in the same famous deposits of Solnhofen, Germany. I might be missing some dendrite details in this one… but…

On top is is a great miniature Baryonyx skeleton in the process of fossilisation sculpted by Dalia and Hector. Under, some plaques of classic skulls: Eoraptor, Heterodontosaurus and Coelophysis. The Triassic section in my collection!

To complement the careful fossil model colour restoration, I’ve been working on some toys, including favourites that I feel I owe them some modifications to make them more believable… I have still some to go, but I first selected this Triceratops from Eofauna that I always liked, but one that regrettably went for the “full smile” cheek-less look that certain paper has brought to the fore… and that I don’t buy at all.

I know this Triceratoops may look fashionable, but , even if they are very distant relatives there are two things that a turtle and Triceratops share… they are both reptiles and they have beaks… if you look closely to the turtle pictures, the “cheeks” of the turtle attach precisely at the end of the beak… they are no cheeks at at al… they are merely flaps of skin that cover the sides of the jaws in order to keep the food inside.

If we count that Triceratops, on top of it all, has a distinctive inner cavity along the jaws, just before or after the beak (your choice), occupied by a full battery of teeth, it is obvious to me that the feature is there to process food and they needed the flap of skin to keep it inside. The muscle attachment is not discussed or doubted here… these are no cheeks in the mammal sense, but that cavity with its teeth must have been covered.

My advice to all model makers: don’t be fashion victims please! Thank you.

What could be next.,.. more Pathologies perhaps?

Posted in Archaeopteryx, Casts, Caudipteryx, Dinosaur colouration, Dinosaur Models, Dinosaur rEvolution, Dinosaurs, Gondwana Studios, Heterodontosaurs, maniraptora, Sinosauropteryx, Theropods, Toy Models, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dinosaur rEvolution in Christchurch, NZ. Best one yet!

As Dinosaur rEvolution continues its merry Australasian Tour, I’m happy to announce that this latest outing is getting closer to the essence of the exhibition. Now with Peter Norton from Gondwana Studios closer to the venue it is evident his control over the whole thing gets better and better, and I find these (his photos) simply awesome… Thank you… we just hope we can continue with more venues to the exhibition and finally deliver it to America and Europe.

Posted in Dinosaur rEvolution, Gondwana Studios | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

A toy, a Mexican street shop, a dinosaur nut and what came after…

This for your Sunday solace and merriment… the moment I saw a toy bust of a Tyrannosaurus in a popular Mexican shop on my recent trips to Mexico, I understood what I needed to do to it.

I love revamping and re-doing objects with potential into something completely different… even if that means I have to re-do it completely, or at least in parts.

There were two resin T. rex busts in the shop, a bigger one that, since it was a blatant rip-off of the regular Jurassic Park T. rex, there was nothing to be done… and another that actually was closer anatomically to a a real tyrannosaur … whoever did this toy was actually making an effort! But to get it completely right, I needed to do the pertinent modifications… and that would take a lot of time and effort. Obsessive fun you might say.

As you can see, it tried to bit me right from the start!

The arms and claws were originally quite big, in the wrong posture and it had no chest. The fingers were disproportioned. The skin texture was crocodilian…. still …there was something appealing to it. So with the help of my friends of the Soteno/Jimenez workshop the first thing I did was chop everything off … and put the pieces in the luggage! Good that I did it, because it might have become a burden to transport as it was. I turned it literally into a resin kit!

On arrival from Mexico, I started the pending job. I had to reconstruct the hands, arms and chest first.Pulverised resin anyone? What chaos, drilling and sanding! I even printed casts of fossil skin as texturisers to the epoxy putty I used as modelling filler. Part of the arms were inserted inside the body and the fingers were more or less re-proportioned and redone.

After repainting (the chest skin looked great with the texturiser) . I started the final part of the job. New skin! But this time would be a combination of fake furry skin and ornamental feathers… et voila … the final product, even if not perfectly proportioned as a real Tyrannosaurs rex, it could pass fairly well as a juvenile T. rex… Nanotyrannus anyone? No, more like “Jane” the young Tyrannosaurus rex.

I added fur and feathers only in the places I thought were most probable. No more crocodile skin… no more naked skin everywhere either. Hope it is annoying enough to the “no-feathers T. rex”

So here it is. Like it or not, it is indeed a Luis V. Rey juvenile Tyrannosaurus added to my collection… the difference with the original toy is quite striking. Wonders can be done with few resources and a little imagination.

Posted in Casts, Dinosaur colouration, Dinosaur Models, tyrannosaurs, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

All change! Latirhinus uitstlani (Isauria)gets a new drastic make-over and moves genera thanks to Mexican researchers.

Palaeontology is a discipline always in state of flux. Especially -in this case – Mexican Palaeontology… the mural of our well received “Hecho En Mexico” Gondwana Studios exhibition at the Alpha Museum in Monterrey (now in the Museo del Desierto. Saltillo) takes a drastic turn!

In my recent trips to Mexico, and given the precautionary times that are affecting every one of us, I had a video conference with my long-time “boss” Angel Ramírez Velasco to whom I’m eternally grateful for allowing me collaborate with him in the version of Tlatolophus that made it to the cover of the prestigious magazine Arqueología Mexicana.

This time he had for me yet another long-time-coming “surprise” that would affect the way we all have been reconstructing the famous hadrosaur Latirhinus, better known as Isauria.

For ages it was the most complete Mexican dinosaur skeleton restored and mounted in the Museo de Geología in Mexico City. We were confident that what we were seeing was accurate and the best possible restoration. Angel Ramírez et al had other ideas after meticulous scrutiny of the fossils.

From the very beginning Isauria was reconstructed as a hadrosaur similar to Kritosaurus and I had dutifully followed that reconstruction. The skeleton was marvellously preserved and repaired by Ricardo Servín Pichardo. However, in a new paper published in the Journal of Paleontology he came to the conclusion that Isauria was not a hadrosaur in the Kritosaurus sense… it was a lambeosaur.

In a last minute correction, Claudia Serrano Brañas together with Albert Prieto Márquez , agreed with Angel but came to the conclusion that not only Isauria was not a hadrosaur, they also claimed that some bones were not from Isauria and were mixed up with the original specimen and misinterpreted….all the researchers agreed is that the original material of Isauria was indeed a lambeosaur not the hadrosaur as originally reconstructed, more akin to several other Mexican lambeosaurs like Magnapaulia or Velafrons (especially this later one).

The fact was that we did NOT have a single bone the head at all! So even if corrected according to the new research, the head is still guess-work. According to Claudia some of the bones don’t belong to the original Latirhinus, and a complete reconstruction would be at this stage a chimera.

What we finally did have for certain were several leg bones and thoracic vertebrae of Latirhinus that in comparison made it more similar to Velafrons than any other hadrosaur..So Angel felt confident at the end that we now have to modify the original idea into a completely different animal, that is more similar to the famous American Corythosaurus. These are the hazards of the Paleo restorer… you are always in danger that well-known illustrations can become obsolete or a “relic” like I say, in a question of minutes.

Thanks to the computer, I am able to correct and modify the original artwork to comply with the new specifications.

I thanking Angel and Claudia for disclosing and talking at length to me about this meticulous research, and the opportunity to virtually illustrate a brand new dinosaur… the lambeosaur Latirhinus uitstlani. The rest of the body is correct. including the pathologies.

The Old

The NEW!




And the papers..
Posted in Dinosaurios Hechos En México, Gondwana Studios, lambeosaurs, Latirhinus, Museo de Geología, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

And Now For Something Completely Different… The Opening of the Darwin Dohrn Museum. Prehistoric Marine Life Murals in Naples!

A brief summary of whale evolution for starters… Including Pakicetus, Ambulocetus, Maiacetus, Rodhocetus, Dorudon, and Basilosauarus (with guests: non-prehistoric Orcas)
And then, the apotheosis…

It is not very often I have been asked to get into restoring marine life evolution… but my friend Marco Signore asked me to do this mammoth task. I started with a mural on whale evolution where I tried to make whale ancestors look as “sexy” as I would try to do my dinosaurs. Don’t know how successfully, but I think I managed somehow! I got some criticism about Basiliosaurus looking too much like T. rex…with that killer smile!

But then came the uber-test. Marco had this idea about a mural occupying ten meters of a corridor, where you would start in the Cenozoic and run back in time into the Ediacaran fauna… Well it was supposed to be >one< mural… but a corridor has two sides, so… If you want to be immersed in it both sides, it resulted in TWO murals, one facing the other. We had a list of a number of animals and I decided to repeat some but alternate others in different takes. A challenge was to make believable such array of sizes… from close-ups of almost microscopic Burgess Shale denizens to humongous Leedsichthys and Basilosaurus… or a small whale-eater like Megalodon!

Many months later we have the results. And despite many troubles. dealing with painfully detailed, slow motion hi-res gigantic computer files, here it is for your perusal at Naples’ newly opened Darwin Dohrn Museum of Marine Life … In fact, I’m posting this precisely the day the Museum opens!

It is meant, more than anything else, to be a colourful celebration of Marine Evolution, with a few selected protagonists. And we have done it… no dinosaurs this time, but hey, vive la difference!

Posted in Cetacean Evolution, Marine Prehistoric Life, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The “Lost” Tyrannosaurs of Mike Kelly. Inedits from an ambitious project(Part One).

Many years ago (in fact it was 2014) I was approached by a veritable dino-nerd with an extraordinarily ambitious project … a Tyrannosaurus/Turannosauria Project… and no it was not Thom Holtz or Dave Hone (which would have been quite the normal candidates to do this). Instead, it was a man that was no academic, only passionate about Tyrannosaurus.He was also truly serious… he wanted to be informed, study, and WRITE about his beloved subject. Nothing wrong with that I thought! He wanted to be as thorough as possible. and he had the means to do it.

Unfortunately the project never came to fruition (at least until now), but I have kept in my vaults some commissioned artwork that I felt I had no permission to show… A shame I thought. So after talking with Mike, we agreed and here is the first part… some would look familiar to many (because Mike shared some samples before) but others are completely new. What do you think? Should we encourage him to keep at it and finish this? Tyrannosaur fans all over the world would be enormously happy! There seems to be other artists involved, but for me, it all started with some tracing on the pictures of a famous Alamosaurus exhibition in the US.

For starters, the striking difference of size between the titanosaur Alamosaurus (one of the very rare sauropods known from Late Cretaceous North America) and T. rex is so striking that is simply unbelievable. The sequence is illustrating Mike Kelly’s, own script/story of a family of Tyrannosaurus rex attacking a herd of Alamosaurus. Would this scenario be really possible? I got the idea that combining forces they might have managed to bring down one of the weaker titans by biting in two different places and make them fall unto its belly while being grabbed by the throat pouch by another T. rex.. Here’\s the sequence.

However, the greatest dancger was for any T. rex. A single swipe of the tail of an adult Alamosaurus would be enough to throw a T. rex out of balance and to the floor, breaking legs and ribs and making it unable to rise up again. Something that would have been turn it as an easy meal… to its own family! The famous Shark on Stilts had its weaker points too…

The next sequence would be Tarbosaurus v a Deinocheirus clan. Watch this space.

Posted in Book Projects, Titanosaurs, tyrannosaurs, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Indulging in one of my favourite passions… once again!

Yes… a bit of work in Mexico and the results are for all to see. I was graciously provided with a cast of Caudipteryx… a dream come true! I’m eternally grateful… but the main thing was to get the blank matrix/canvas painted and customised as realistically as possible.

This is a step by step narrative of what became five days of being immersed in a complete creative coma… and might get even better if I continue.

I’m learning a lot from the fossil as I speak. The well-documented original (of which there are several known reconstructions) appears not to have had the feather imprints added (that come from another find). But I tried my best to recreate what might have been if fully prepared…

Interestingly enough, I did find some physically imprinted (not just carbonised) feather traces on the stone matrix, still preserved by the right side of the tip of the tail of the cast, and I followed that in the reconstruction. Yes the cast was >that< good… obviously done by an expert.

At the end it is a rather personal reconstruction based on the best evidence… but personal nevertheless.

Here it is, proudly on exhibition at my studio.

I leave you with yet another acquisition in Mexico: Aldo Fomisaurus outstanding model of my Tlatolophus .

Posted in Casts, Caudipteryx, Dinosaur colouration, hadrosaurs, Museum Displays, Tlatolophus, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

The Dinosaur rEvolution in New Zealand continues…

The rEvolution is getting closer to what it should be!

It’s taken many outings but the way I look at this now, it is as close as the original I conceived as it could be (for the moment). It is really difficult to “marry” the concept to a different hall every time. And on top of that add the very inevitable, popular (albeit not of my complete liking) animatronics. But the skeletons furnished by Peter Norton and the murals DO work together. The drama is palpable for the first time in Whirinaki Whare Taonga (to my taste at least).

A controversial exhibition to say the least… Ornithischian vs Theropoda, skin warriors!

https://www.facebook.com/ExpressionsArtsCentre/

In the meantime in Mexico…

I frankly couldn’t be happier! A prestigious Mexican magazine I’ve been collecting all my life, specialised in Mexican native Archaeology has chosen my Tlatolophus, the talking duck-billed crowned jewel of Mexican Dinosaurs, restoration as its first-ever Paleontology cover. Thank you all!

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The Big T. IS Finally out! The secret crown jewel of Mexican Dinosaurs is with us.

Presenting the final version of the Big T. (Tlatolophus galorum) above. It has taken Angel Ramírez Velasco and Ricardo Servín Pichardo several painstaking years to publish this marvel. A perfect, complete skull of this Parasurolophine hadrosaur, similar to but at the same time completely different from Parasaurolophus… and about the same length! They had the fortune to tenaciously persevere in the dig and find the skull UNDER a bunch of other parts of the skeleton…The triangular crest is a marvel and the uncrushed front view is quite narrow. The frontal view was discussed, since it was quite tricky to portray… the authors and researchers involved are: Angel Alejandro Ramírez Velasco, Felisa Aguilar, René Hernández, José Luis, Marisol Lara, Jesús Alvarado and José López, the discoverer.Ricardo Servín is working on the model of the skull of the dinosaur and deserves a special mention, even if he is not officially in the paper.

It is indeed a wholly Mexican Dinosaur researched and presented to the world by a completely Mexican team. I’m extra proud of having been invited to do a reconstruction.

I followed the meticulous instructions of Angel in this reconstruction as you might be able to see… and I thank very much the opportunity they gave me two years ago to actually play a little with the original specimen… congratulations not only for this find but for having the patience, expertise and perseverance needed to have the paper officially released at last! Hadrosaur fans, eat you heart out!

Link to the paper here: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0195667121001312?via%3Dihub

Posted in Mexican Prehistory, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Pathologies… in the waiting!

Herrerasaurus attacked by Saurosuchus

There’s nothing more frustrating, as every artist or palaeontologist knows, than a bunch of oven ready pieces rotting away in our vaults without a publisher helping them to see the light!…

Those were the pre=pandemic days! Almost two years after I announced the Dinosaur Pathologies book, that would involve the likes of Ricardo Servin Pichardo, Angel Ramírez and Ruben Molina Perez among others, this very promising book has never made it to the printers and is still searching for a proper publishing house…

I’m still very much hoping that that this material will come to light some day… I’m sharing here just a taster of what’s in the vault being constantly refurbished… and there are many more!! In part it has been good the wait because it has allowed me to keep updating the artwork as new modifications have been gradually required.

So this is yet a renewed invitation to any takers!

PS. And just you wait when Angel Ramirez gets his new paper published! Many will be astonished… there’s a lot of rumbling under the Paleo-surface that is not only about new Mexican dinosaurs or there illustrious Spinosaurus... Cristiano Dal Sasso has also promised hot news about “him” very shortly!

Injured Dilophosaurus getting even MORE injured.

Ceratosaurus and Camptosaurus
Camelotia attacked by Teratosaurus.

Acrocanthosaurus accident with titanosaur…

Posted in Carnosaurs, Dinosaur Pathologies, maniraptora, Raptors, Reptiles, Sauropods, Tetrapods, Titanosaurs, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments